Monday, December 28, 2009

What's the best thing about being an author?

One of the best things about being an author is knowing other authors.

My 12 yr old, Emily, just finished Sarah Miller's brilliant
MISS SPITFIRE: REACHING HELEN KELLER Atheneum Books, 2007, about which Richard Peck says, "Miss Spitfire is high drama about how language unlocks the world." I adore Sarah and I love her book and I love her brain.
When Emily announced she'd found the book on my shelf, started reading, and just finished it, I was excited to hear what she thought of it.
The Helen Keller story has always fascinated me, but I may have been over-zealous in introducing Em to it. She's watched The Miracle Worker (w/various casts) several times and wasn't as obsessed with it as I am. I, uh, kind of forced her to watch.
So I didn't shove Sarah's book at her and encourage her to read it. She found it when the time was right for her, in between readings of the Lightning Thief, Sisters Grimm and Twilight series. I'm so glad she did.
There's not much more satisfying for me as a parent than seeing my kid discover something great on her own.
When Emily entered my studio and started talking, I listened. Then I started taking notes, typing what she was saying. With her permission I mailed her stream-of-consciousness review to Sarah, who responded with a lovely note and an offer to mail a signed bookplate.
So I am happy.
My kid is thrilled.
Which makes me even happier.

I'm an author. At four family events in the last week, kids who are Ellie McDoodle fans who happen to also be my relatives engaged me in discussions about Ellie.
Now, I'm accustomed to meeting with kids at schools, libraries, bookstores, chatting about my books, asking what they liked or didn't like, and I'm always happy to discuss future plots or give a sneak peek at the work-in-progress.
But I'm not used to talking with fans at family events. It's a little weird to talk about work with kids anyway; they were never interested in the logos or brochures I used to design.
It's good, though. I love connecting with all readers.

My status is up a little higher than it used to be, due to my books.

But it really shoots up if I have a special connection to a relative's new favorite author.
At Christmas I learned my niece Alex likes Gail Carson Levine's books. I met Gail! I sketched her in NYC. I told Alex that Gail is a lovely person and is petite, like Alex's mom. Bing! My status bumped up.
When I handed my nephews Chris Barton's THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS with a flourescent bookplate and told them I know the author, and he's really cool, my status went up a couple points. Bing! Bing!
When I handed my oldest daughter Liz Scanlon's ALL THE WORLD (illustrated by the fabulous Marla Frazee, who I got to help shadow at an SCBWI conference), she read it to her baby and she was very touched by the message of the book. When I told her I know Liz -- and also Marla! -- and I saw the book before it was published, and it's going to be a Cheerios book and probably also a Caldecott contender, my Mom status bumped up a few more notches. Bing! Bing! Bing!
My niece is a fan of Libba Bray. I don't know Libba, but I did meet her husband (and he likes Ellie McDoodle, and he's a friend of my agent's)... Bing! Bing! Bing! Bing!
My grandson loves THE POUT-POUT FISH, by Debbie Diesen. I know about her new books; she has some amazing work coming down the pike... Bing! Bing! Bing! Bing! Bing! Status shoots through the roof.
It just occurred to me: I could send Amy Huntley's THE EVERAFTER to my cousin's teen daughter. I bet she'd adore it. And I know Amy well! Bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing!
And now Sarah Miller is sending a bookplate.
I could go on forever. I have hundreds of writer friends who can make me look good by association.
What, me, namedrop? Heck yeah.
Wish I knew that Wimpy Kid author...

Post script: Sarah Miller's bookplate for Miss Spitfire arrived -- it's in Braille! Is that cool or what?

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